A theoretically grounded systematic review of material incentives for weight loss: implications for interventions

Ann Behav Med. 2012 Dec;44(3):375-88. doi: 10.1007/s12160-012-9403-4.


Background: Providing material incentives for weight loss is a class of intervention strategies that has received considerable attention; however, the effectiveness of this class of strategies is uncertain. Attending to distinctions among incentive strategies may clarify our understanding of prior work and inform the design of future interventions.

Purpose: A theoretical framework is proposed that distinguishes between four classes of incentive strategies and is used to organize randomized controlled trials of material incentives for weight loss.

Methods: A systematic literature review was conducted.

Results: Findings were mixed with regards to the overall efficacy of material incentives for weight loss. Three of the four proposed incentive categories are represented in the literature. Heterogeneous methods were used across studies rendering comparisons between studies difficult.

Conclusions: Definitive conclusions about the usefulness of material incentives for weight loss could not be drawn. A theoretically grounded approach to designing and testing incentive strategies is encouraged.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Motivation*
  • Weight Loss*